Building industry group dismisses council’s ‘ground-breaking’ net zero homes move as unworkable

January 26, 2023

A pioneering energy-based net zero housing policy being introduced by Bath & North East Somerset Council has been slammed as ‘undeliverable’ by the building industry’s trade association.

The council has become the first in England to successfully adopt the move, which it sees as part of its commitment to tackling the climate emergency.   

It will also impose net zero operational carbon standards for new major non-residential development.

The council said the new policy would ensure the energy use of any proposed development is measured and meets a specified target — setting a limit on the total energy use and demand for space heating.

It will also require sufficient on-site renewable energy generation to match the total energy consumption of the buildings — ensuring the development is 100% self-sufficient.

However, the National Federation of Builders (NFB), which represents 1,400 mainly small and medium-sized building companies and regional contractors, including housebuilders, dismissed the move, claiming it was not deliverable and would make homes unaffordable.

It also argued the decision cut across work now underway between the industry and government for all homes to be ‘zero carbon ready’ under future homes standards which will go live by 2025.

A home will be described as ‘zero carbon ready' when it can rely on heat pumps and solar panels rather than gas boilers and has an efficient mechanical ventilation system.

NFB planning and policy head Rico Wojtulewicz said: “It’s going to make homes unaffordable and sites unviable. Industry is happy to move to a net zero standard when it's ready. But it's not ready now. This is going to be painful.”

He said ensuring all homes had a battery, solar panels and could be powered off the grid would potentially cost £20,000 per property, adding to unease among lenders and possibly forcing some smaller developers to leave the sector.

The council, which describes the policy as ground-breaking, has included it its updated Local Plan – the blueprint for the future shape of the area – meaning it will be able to secure net zero development, help facilitate the delivery of renewable energy installations of an appropriate scale in the most suitable locations and further encourage the shift towards more sustainable forms of transport.

It also said the policy would allow it to better manage off-campus, purpose-built student accommodation schemes where they meet a demonstrable need.

A independent planning inspector had suggested the changes would be sound and legally compliant, the council added. They were also consulted on last year.

Cabinet member for planning and licensing Cllr Tim Ball said: “Adoption of the Local Plan Partial Update ensures our policies are aligned with the latest national policy and put us at the forefront nationally with policies related to the climate and ecological emergencies.”

He said the council was the first local planning authority in England to adopt a local plan policy requiring a net zero energy balance for new housing and the first in the West of England to adopt a biodiversity net gain policy requiring major developments to demonstrate a biodiversity net gain of a minimum of 10%.

Minor developments will only be permitted where no net loss and appropriate net gain of biodiversity is secured.




Comments are closed.


Reach tens of thousands of senior business people across the Bath area for just £75 a month. Email for more information.